Schlepping boatloads of groceries on public transit is a well-documented annoyance. Companies like Seamless and Fresh Direct have capitalized on this aversion by bringing sustenance straight to people’s doorsteps, but there’s one inconvenience—sometimes minor, sometimes major: they have to be home.
The online grocer Peapod is testing a way for customers to get fresh groceries into their homes sans the pressure of a closing delivery window or deviating from their regular route.
Grocery pickup “pods” were installed last month at three Metro stations in the D.C. area, Next City reports. For the next six months, customers at the Fort Totten, Glenmont, and Vienna stations will be able to pick up groceries pre-ordered from Peapod’s sister company Giant Food on their way home between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Groceries are distributed by an on-site attendant, The Washington Post adds.
For now, this is a trial venture, but the Metro spokesman Richard Johnson told Next City that if it takes off, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority would welcome bids from Peapod and other grocery delivery companies to install permanent kiosks going forward.
While Peapod believes their in-station pods to be the first of their kind, this is by no means the maiden attempt by an online delivery service to shake up the ways in which customers can access their stuff.
Amid concerns from urban apartment dwellers fearing missed deliveries, Amazon debuted in 2012 what The Wall Street Journal termed a “secret weapon”: pickup lockers. Unlike the Peapod kiosks, these lockers were installed in places like “drugstore outlets that function like virtual doormen, accepting packages for a later pickup,” WSJ wrote. While the lockers preclude the difficulties that arise when package and recipient miss each other like ships in the night, they still require people to work in an extra trip to a specific location.
Peapod, however, has long understood the impact of bundling the necessity of groceries with the drudgery of public transit. As a marketing scheme tied to their newly launched app in 2012, the company installed “virtual supermarkets” at SEPTA stations in Philadelphia; while waiting for the train, customers could survey and purchase from a selection of food items that would later arrive on their doorsteps.
Three three stations included in the Peapod pilot program primarily cater to park-and-ride customers. For them, the pods might just be the incarnation of grocery delivery least disruptive to their daily lives. Elizabeth Psaros, the senior regional marketing manager for Peapod, explained to The Washington Post:
If you are commuting, you know you are going to be on the bus or the train and you know you are going to get to the station and then get in your car. So what a great option to be able to order your groceries and then pick them up on your way home, not even having to make that additional stop or even think about it. It’s another way of saving time.